Here in the Sunset, the buildings aren’t as tall as in other parts of San Francisco, everything feels a little more spaced out, and grey, misty days are all too common. The city’s massive neighborhood by the ocean is also home to a ton of great restaurants, from sandwich spots to noodle houses to excellent bakeries. While there are endless places to eat and drink in this part of town (did we mention this neighborhood is massive?), we rounded up 28 spots we love.
With a hip-hop and R&B soundtrack and super shareable dishes, Um.ma is one of the most fun places to eat on Ninth Avenue. The sensible move here is to order Korean staples like bibimbap, pajeon (seafood pancake), bulgogi beef, and kimchi jjigae stew, and to also try a few less traditional things - like the Rockin’ Roe, a beautiful fish egg and rice dish. Um.ma is currently offering reservations for parklet seating, as well as backyard patio dining (where you can order more elaborate KBBQ meals), takeout, and delivery.
Even if you don’t drink wine or care about it at all, Palm City Wines is worth knowing as a place to get a really good footlong hoagie that can potentially feed you for the greater part of a week. At the minimum, their stacked Italian heros make for a super generous split between two people, and the cauliflower hoagie with asparagus and ginger lemongrass aioli is just as good as the Italian meat combo, if not better. If you do care about wine, most bottles are under $50, and they’ve recently transitioned to serving onsite, but aren’t taking online pre-orders for the time being.
Dumpling Specialist is a small dumpling shop run by daughter and father owners, Rebecca and Paul Yu, who were also behind the beloved Dumpling Kitchen. While they closed the original and changed locations in 2019, they still serve the same great potstickers, pork buns, soup dumplings, wonton in chili oil, and Mr. Yu’s handmade noodles, which go into soups with additions like Chinese five-spice beef. There are a few tables here, but there’s no shame if you want to have private time at home with these dumplings like the rest of us.
The Best Dumpling Spots In SF
photo credit: Erin Ng
Excellent wood-fired pies with crispy, chewy crusts are the star at this casual neighborhood spot. Here, you have a bunch of different pizzas to choose from, like one topped with a mix of five different mushrooms, and another with purple potatoes, pesto, and pancetta. They also make an excellent margherita, which tastes even better with a drizzle of their hot honey or ranch (both $2 extra). Add in some wine and cocktails and you have yourself the perfect, low-key night.
Old Mandarin Islamic Restaurant
Located far from some of the neighborhood’s more food-centric streets, you’ll notice right away that dumplings and savory pancakes are table staples at this petite halal Chinese spot on Vicente. Come hungry for the seriously huge portions of chili oil and Sichuan pepper-bathed crack fish, which can also be made with beef or lamb. And in a neighborhood full of all-you-can-eat hot pot, here you order Beijing-style hot pot with à la carte items, which can be a bit more relaxing process overall than trying to cram as much into the broth as you feel justifies the price tag. You’ll probably have to wait at least 20 minutes for a table (bring a hoodie), but you won’t feel pressured to rush once you’re seated.
Fresh bread is the name of the game at this bakery in the Inner Sunset. Fill up on a bunch of pastry pouches with cheese rolls, focaccia with toppings like kale and cheese, and sourdough croissants that might feel dense, but are still flaky when you bite into them. They also do pizzas that change up frequently, but are always delicious if it’s too late in the day to justify just having some coffee and a pastry.
This Chinese bakery is a go-to spot for pineapple buns - soft, airy rolls that don’t actually contain any of the tropical fruit (they get their name from the pineapple-looking pattern that forms on the sugary, buttery top after they’re baked). The buns are sliced in half before a slab of butter is wedged inside (guava butter is also an option). Sweet and savory filling options include black sesame custard, barbecue pork, and curry beef. The one with purple yam is a must-order.
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Brothers Aadar and Saadi Halil opened their Inner Sunset ice cream shop out of a former Japanese restaurant space in 2014. They continue to outdo themselves with inventive flavor ideas, whether offering scoops and pints of Sufganiyot ice cream (cinnamon-olive oil ice cream with raspberry jelly donut pieces) for Hanukkah or cocktail-inspired Caipirinha sorbet in the warmer months. There are also sundaes, churros, cookies, and some excellent maple pecan bars, along with a restored 1970s VW bus that makes regular stops to sell scoops on the Marina Green and in other spots around town.
There is a waitlist at Kingdom of Dumpling, but it gets completely ignored, so when you show up here, don’t walk off or you’ll get skipped over. This place in the Outer Sunset is tiny to the point that whenever someone squeezes in behind you, they really are squeezing behind you, but it’s worth getting nudged a few times throughout the meal because the dumplings here are both cheap and great. We like the standard pork with cabbage, but the spicy dumplings with pork and chili oil and the pan-fried soup dumplings with a thick, chewy, cakey wrapper are the real stars.
There are some days when we crave a small donut or just a few donut holes. And then there are others when we simply need to devour a face-sized fritter (the shop’s true highlight) or an arm-length Tiger Tail. Uncle Benny’s covers all these bases. Despite the consistent high quality of everything on the menu, prices haven’t changed much here in the last decade. You can pair your donuts, breakfast sandwiches, and omelets with coffee, a smoothie, or something fun from the refrigerated case, including jasmine green tea and aloe juice.
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Hook Fish Co
We head to Hook Fish Co whenever we have a craving for something that came out of the ocean - or after a trip to Ocean Beach once we’re reminded why we hate sand so much. All of the fish here is prepared simply, and you can get things like crab cakes with a lot of meat and almost no filler, fish tacos, burritos, and poke. The best part about Hook Fish Co is you can customize most orders - fish options include halibut, lingcod, yellowtail, a daily catch, and more. But whatever you get here will be great.
The Sunset was already dense with Chinese restaurants when Terra Cotta Warrior opened in 2014, but by offering something different - specifically Shaanxi cuisine from Northwest China - it’s become one of the most popular spots in the neighborhood. At its heart, this place is a regional burger spot, with several options of cumin lamb (the dominant protein on the menu), pork, beef, and veggie burgers, or rou jia mo, stuffed into skillet-toasted Chinese buns. You’re also going to want to become acquainted with their hand-pulled noodles and cold shredded potatoes in particular, because either will help cool your mouth down and bring it back to life after all the heat and numbness. There are a few small veggie dishes like cabbage in chili oil and broccoli with garlic too, but this place is first and foremost for those of us who love meaty sandwiches.
Lavash serves solid renditions of classic Persian stews, such as fesenjan (chicken with walnut and pomegranate sauce) and ghormeh sabzi (beef, herbs, and kidney beans) as well as various rice dishes, including the crispy tahdig that brings lots of great texture to anything else you order. With its small cafe feel, it’s also the kind of place that will create a heart design out of your kabob rice when you’re eating there. The restaurant faced significant hardship even before the pandemic after an early 2018 fire necessitated an almost two-year closure. Fortunately, it’s currently open for limited indoor and outdoor dining on weekends as well as takeout and delivery during the week.
Devil's Teeth Baking Company
Breakfast sandwiches aren’t complicated. But Devil’s Teeth Baking Company’s special breakfast sandwich - with scrambled egg, pepper jack, avocado, and bacon on a just-baked biscuit - feels like an entirely new invention. This place is a few blocks away from the ocean, and there are few mornings better than eating one of these on a bench outside with a cup of coffee before a walk to the beach. If you’re in the Richmond, get the sandwich at their second location on Balboa.
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King of Noodles
The menu at this Chinese noodle spot is huge and has everything from soup dumplings to chow mein, but we come here for the noodle soup. Our favorite is the spicy beef version that’s cloudy with chilis and spices, but isn’t overly hot. The beef is tender and delicious and the noodles are perfectly chewy. One bowl is enough for two people and only costs $9, and on a lazy Sunday afternoon, this is where you should be.
Whenever we want to keep things healthy-ish (or just really feel like starting off a morning with a damn good fruit smoothie), we go to Judahlicious. This place specializes in vegan and raw foods - from gigantic acai bowls to the “No Shirt, No Shoes,” a burrito bowl with black beans and rice, grilled vegetables, sesame tomato sauce, sliced avocado, cashew crème, and tomatillo sauce. It’s a good sport to come hang out for a long casual breakfast or lunch.
Restaurants come and go in the fickle food court known as the Inner Sunset, but New Eritrea continues to be beloved decades after it opened. It’s always a warm and hassle-free experience to bring a group here with mixed eating restrictions. Every vegetarian thing on the menu (which includes both Eritrean and Ethiopian dishes) happens to also be vegan, and there are also plenty of meat options, including the New Eritrea special kitfo - a flank steak tartare mixed with collard greens and cheese. And when the bar has tej, an Ethiopian honey wine, it’s an especially good day.
You go to Thanh Long in the Outer Sunset for the gigantic, whole-roasted Dungeness crab. They’re thoroughly covered in salt and pepper, which makes breaking into the shells just as good as eating the actual meat. And while the crab alone is enough of a reason to come here, the garlic noodles pair about as perfectly with it as Olivia Rodrigo does in front of a piano.
Dungeness crab and Maine lobster dishes anchor the menu at this family-style Vietnamese spot. You might be tempted to zero in on the roasted garlic crab and garlic noodles, a nod to the longtime popularity of the house specialties at nearby Thanh Long. But there are five preparations of crab to consider at Golden Crab House, including a stunning rice-battered and salted egg yolk-washed option. The menu also includes things like Chinese soup dumplings and Vietnamese imperial rolls. And when Dungeness is out of season around here, the restaurant sources from Washington, so you can get your giant crab fix year-round.
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House of Pancakes
Looking for the best onion pancakes in the city? All roads lead to House of Pancakes. They’re big, puffy, and flaky and stand up perfectly to the things they fill them with, like beef with hoisin sauce. This spot also makes super chewy hand-pulled noodles that you can get stir-fried with things like lamb or served in soup. House of Pancakes is small and cash-only and there’s most likely going to be a wait, but it’s always well worth it.
San Tung Chinese Restaurant
We can say, with certainty, that San Tung’s chicken wings are life-changing. And, no, we’re not being hyperbolic. The dry-fried wings are covered in a caramel-like garlic, ginger, and red pepper sauce that are good enough to inspire an out-of-body experience. And yes, you will probably end up licking every last bit of the sauce from your plate, and possibly end a friendship when you go for the last wing. But you should also save room for things like crispy pork potstickers, three deluxe spicy sauce noodles, and beef with oyster sauce.
This place has great pho, with a meaty broth that could thaw out Austin Powers before the world needs him again, as well as great salt and pepper crab. It’s right next to San Tung, and if the wait there is longer than you can handle, Yummy Yummy is an excellent place to use as an alternative, especially if the fog starts to roll in while you’re waiting.
The Pizza Place on Noriega
The Pizza Place is a neighborhood institution and it has some of our favorite pizza by-the-slice in the area. It’s super casual and a little sleepy, but it also makes delicious brick oven pies, including gluten-free and vegan options too. We usually stick with classic cheese or margherita, but you really can’t go wrong.
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This particular stretch of Irving has almost nothing but snacks, and this is by far the most special spot on the block. There are just a few tables inside Yuanbao Jiaozi and the reward for a sometimes-wait to dine in is the ability to watch your various pork, shrimp, or fish dumplings get made to order behind a window from any seat in the house. The dumplings, which are boiled and served by the dozen, are available alone or in soup, and, on a related note, the house-special beef noodle soup also deserves your undivided attention. Add on one of the little snacks, like peanuts with celery, for a little crunch in the meal too.
Ebisu doesn’t take reservations, but the wait is never too long, which makes it an easy option for a last-minute date or a group dinner with a few friends. The sushi here is all great as well, and we also like to get the $25 sashimi omakase (15 pieces) or some giant hand rolls. If you want something hot though, we always start with the Pink Cadillac, which is a grilled salmon filet wrapped around scallops.
Nothing beats sitting down at Marnee Thai and being delivered a skillet full of Thai rice coconut hotcakes with pumpkin, corn, green onions, and coconut cream. As you carefully scoop each one out, they get progressively crispier on the outside, but still remain pleasingly soft inside. This is one of San Francisco’s oldest Thai restaurants and while they nail all the standard classics, there’s almost always something exciting to try on the specials board too. The noodles, soups, curries, and other menu staples hone in on Central Thailand, though you’ll find dishes from other regions too, like massaman curry from the southern part of the country.
Toyose is located inside a converted garage, but unlike our third-grade science projects, most of what comes out of this place is actually pretty good. It’s open until midnight daily (1:30am on Fridays and Saturdays), and late-night is when you should come here - both because that feels like the right time to eat out of a converted garage and the Korean food they serve is filling and perfect for after you’ve had a few drinks. We like the seafood pancake with shrimp, calamari, and vegetables, the kimchi fried rice, and the kimchi stew.
When you want to live on the edge and let the winds of fate dictate what ice cream you’re going to consume, you have two options: blindly opening the grocery store freezer and grabbing a random pint (or tub of frozen gravy) or going to Polly Ann. It’s a good way to avoid choosing chocolate or cookie dough for the thousandth time and trying some of their unique flavors, like green tea, durian, or black sesame.